Alex Wheatley

What’s your full name?

Alexander Wheatley.

How old are you?


Where were you born/brought up?

I was born in Tokyo and lived there for 10 odd years. I have also lived in London and Hong Kong.

What do you do for a living?

I am a shipbroker.

What’s your ethnicity?

Half Japanese, quarter British, quarter Irish.

How did your mum and dad meet?

My mum moved to London when she was 19 and worked in a Japanese restaurant. My dad was served by her there and then asked her out.


How old were you when you became conscious that people saw you differently? What impact did that have on you?

I went to an international school in Japan and many of my friends were half-Japanese like me. At the same time, many of my friends were from all over the world. Looking different at that school never really meant anything, nobody really cared. Then when I was 9, I went to boarding school in the UK and everyone else was white British and I was not. It didn’t bother me and no one else gave me a hard time. Naturally there were always the questions like ‘can you speak Japanese?’ or ‘what’s it like living in Tokyo?’ but I never felt out of place.

Describe your most memorable moments when you were made aware of being mixed race.

My English mates at school would often ask me how to say things in Japanese and what it was like there. I realised that everything that was normal to me on my Japanese side was totally foreign to them. The concept of eating a riceball for lunch in the UK is bizarre and strange and yet I did not feel the same way towards English customs. I found that being mixed-race meant I was more open-minded to different cultures, purely because I had been immersed in two very different ones my whole life.

Do you feel your parents prepared you for life as a mixed race person?

I don’t think they actively tried to prepare me but at the same time were always there for me if I had any issues. As it is, I never really encountered any problems regarding my being mixed race so it was fairly plain sailing. My mother constantly spoke to me in Japanese throughout my childhood so my listening and comprehension of Japanese was fairly good. My father always spoke English to me and corrected me if I was wrong. In this way, I suppose they did prepare me somewhat and nurtured an understanding and appreciation of culture and language.

What ignorant comments have you heard about being mixed-race that really rile you?

I try not to let any comments get to me (banter at school was very funny but very harsh at times) but I suppose when people who do not know so much about my background and don’t take some time to think about what they say can be irritating. Also when people are not used to being around people of one of my ethnicities, a derogatory comment might slip out and I will be a little suprised to hear that. But in general, I have not personally heard anything that would warrant me becoming angry but I reckon I am rather lucky in that respect.

What do you wish people who aren’t mixed-race understood?

I suppose if they knew a little bit more about the nuances of Asian culture could be good but to be honest, the fact they do not is nice sometimes, makes me a little more mysterious haha. To some, the fact that there are people out there who have diverse upbringings and multiple ethnic backgrounds is a strange concept. Once it has become more common knowledge to them, I’d hope they could see it in a more accepting light.

Do you think mixed race people/families are well represented in the media?

No, I don’t believe mixed race people are very well represented in the media. Mixed race people is a broad demographic and I think some are better represented than others but I believe people are becoming more used to the concept of mixed people. Representation in media for me is also a tricky topic. Of course, we’d all like to look up to people and celebrities that share our background so we can say ‘hey, he’s like me!’ but I believe it is more important that people value the ‘content of their character’ as Martin Luther King Jr so aptly said.


Back in the late 19th century/early 20th century being mixed race held a stigma, as it was clear proof of interracial relations which was seen as an affront to society’s morals. Do you think it’s easier nowadays to be mixed race or is it more that racism has become subtler?

Racism is no longer tolerated and normal, in Western society at least, so it is much easier to be mixed race nowadays. Being mixed race (for the most part) prompts interest and surprise in those that discover people of this origin. Nowadays, people can be lauded and seen as special in some cases just for being mixed race. That’s not to say discrimination and racism is not around but yes, it is easier these days as society has become more accepting.

Is being mixed race a burden or a blessing for you?

Definitely a blessing. The fact I have family in the UK, Ireland, USA and Japan is so awesome. With parents from different backgrounds and countries, you really get a head start in experiencing more of the world’s various cultures.

Have you felt a struggle with your identity? If so, how did you deal with it and if you are now at peace with who you are, how did you come to a place of self-acceptance?

When I am in Japan, people think I am either entirely foreign though some know I am half. In the UK, people do not dispel the chance I may be entirely Asian and not British at all. Wherever I go, I suppose until people speak and get to know me, they have doubts of my identity and background. I don’t mind it too much but sometimes wish I could be totally native to one society and country and be rid of the doubt. However, I feel that is a small grievance in the grand scheme of things and I am very happy to be mixed-race.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Enjoy life and stop wishing you were older.